Ohkay so, as promised, I decided to write an overview of the very first season of MasterChef Pakistan. Ever since it was revealed that MasterChef Pakistan was going to hit our screens, those who have been avid followers of the show MasterChef itself had high expectations & I can say it was the most anticipated reality show for all the reality TV buffs (including me) out there.
To be honest, before it began, I never thought that it would be conducted on such a large scale & in such a professional manner, where the quality would speak for itself but the moment I tuned into the very first episode of MasterChef Pakistan, I knew that the producers of the show meant serious business & the creative team had planned & executed it brilliantly. Obviously, being the very first season, there were some limitations, not in the sets, not in the production but in the editing & camerawork which was probably the very first thing that emerged as a flaw but other than that the journey starting from the auditions to the finale was amazing on its own.
Even before the show began the very first faces that we got to see were of Chef Zakir, Chef Mehboob & Chef Khurram Awan as the judges. People were well aware of Chef Mehboob & Chef Zakir but didn’t know much about Chef Khurram. Chef Zahir has been a household name ever since he has been hosting his personal cookery shows on different renowned channels & therefore people had a lot of expectations from him because of the obvious reasons.
The show began where the judges had to select top 50 contestants from the top 100 auditionees. The auditions were held in Lahore, Islamabad & Karachi & it came across as if the judges were focusing more on the international dishes because the judges seemed very impressed by those contestants who came up with different styles of cuisines whereas those who came up with local Pakistani dishes were hardly selected, probably because the judges had a complete know-how of the Pakistani food, therefore they nit-picked every single detail & mistake that the contestants might’ve made. The editing of the audition rounds was probably a biggest let down because nothing seemed systematic & planned or to say the least, didn’t seem like a MasterChef quality work at all. The initial episodes began & ended giving away the impression that there was a lot of margin for improvement.
By the time the auditions ended, audience got an understanding that the level at which the show was going to be conducted didn’t lack in the quality at all. The judges had to narrow down the contestants from top 50 to 30 to 20, where they were put up with basic yet difficult challenges. After the contestants survived those challenges, we finally got our top 16 contestants, who then got a chance to step into the MasterChef Kitchen. I must say, the creative team blew the audience away with the design of the MasterChef Kitchen & Knorr Pantry because everything seemed top-quality & top-notch. That was the time when the audience started rooting for stand-out contestants as they showcased their calibre in the previous rounds. It was now the time where the fight for the title of MasterChef Pakistan began on a serious note & the contestants were put up with mystery box challenges, team challenges, on-site challenges & elimination rounds. The contestants that stood out the most throughout this journey were Rayyan, Ammarah, Madiha, Amna, Gulnaz, Saad, Khurram & Ali Shah.
The show ended at a positive note where the most deserving contestant, who remained consistent throughout the show with amazing & creative approach to every single dish of hers emerged as a winner & she was Ammarah Noman, who ended up winning herself a prize money worth of Rs. 5 Million & a cook-book contract. During her journey she even won a chance of having her recipe included in the menu of Movenpick Restaurant & she was probably the only contestant who never made it to the elimination round on her own. The one time Ammarah appeared in the elimination round was when her team failed in a challenge & that was the first & the last time she fought in a black apron round. After Ammarah; Gulnaz & Madiha became the 1st & 2nd Runner Up winning the prize money of Rs. 1 Million & Rs. 0.5 Million respectively. The journey of very first MasterChef Pakistan ended at a very positive note but throughout the season there were a few limitations that I wish will be taken care of in the upcoming seasons.
I’d start off by saying that cooking is an art in itself & those who’re passionate about it know very well as to what cooking means & how much happiness it brings to them. I wish MasterChef Pakistan had conducted the competition in such a manner as well where the judges would’ve inspired the contestants, would’ve lead them, would’ve encouraged the contestants to showcase their inner strengths, their journeys, their inspirations, their passion for food through their dishes, on their plates. They did put the contestants up with certain challenges but I think they should’ve allotted certain themes to every single challenge, to stir the creativity within the contestants, where it had forced them to treat cooking as an art. During the auditions we got to hear every contestant say that they were passionate about food but sadly, the way the challenges were given to them, it looked like they were doing a job of some sort without any enthusiasm or excitement.
Sadly, I feel throughout the season the judges on their own had a very hard time in forming a bond with the contestants & that is why it seemed that the judges believed their job finished just when they were done dictating a challenge to the contestants. Yes, I think dictating is the right word because the judges seemed reserved & not friendly at all. The only judge who seemed to be enjoying the chance of getting affiliated with franchise was Chef Mehboob & that is why he got appreciated a lot when he took a moment out to have a chit chat with Zain when he felt he was breaking down. It was pretty evident that the judges started favouring a few contestants a bit too soon & also started competing against a contestant they thought was a strong contender & that was Rayyan. Chef Zakir in particular took pride in bringing him down & it seemed that no matter what he’d do, he’d always fall short on efforts just because a certain judge, a certain senior chef started feeling insecure because of a young & fresh talent. I actually feel that the judges shouldn’t have just announced the challenge & walked away but instead they should’ve made sure they provoked the contestants to be a bit more creative, a bit more experimental & the challenges should’ve been such where the contestants were pushed out of their comfort zones.
One thing that really bothered the audience was the stern behaviour of Chef Zakir, which actually came as a shock to his fans & those who have been following his shows because it seemed like he was trying to fit in the boots of Gordon Ramsay. It seemed like instead of encouraging the contestants, he would make sure to fluster them just because they chose to cook a specific dish in a certain way that differed the technique of Chef Zakir. I think the judges should’ve been a bit more open & a bit flexible especially when it came to Pakistani food; because it is so diverse that every single household has their own signature way of making a dish, which I may state tastes just perfect. I think good chefs are those who experiment with whatever things they get in their pantries but seemed like the judges didn’t approve much of the experimentation & were running a boot camp where the contestants were to follow a code & command while making food, which never results in a positive outcome & instead leaves the contestants tensed & depressed.
The challenges didn’t seem challenging enough. There wasn’t much of a variety that we got to see & 90% of the show was shot in the MasterChef Kitchen where the contestants were told to make savoury dishes every single time making every single episode look monotonous, boring & less exciting. There were 3 on-site challenges throughout the season which actually isn’t enough but I must say, those episodes turn out to be the best episodes of the season. There were only 2 guest judges that were invited in the show which again in my opinion is an opportunity wasted as there are a lot of renowned chefs in Pakistan who could’ve been invited to be a part of the show so that they could’ve tested the contestants by telling them to recreate one of their signature dishes like Chef Shai & Chef Saadat did.
I definitely wish that the producers of MasterChef Pakistan train the cameramen & editing team before the next season because every single episode had more or less the same pattern with a lot of editing flaws. The execution of every single episode was mediocre & we never got to learn any such techniques from the contestants. In every episode we got to see the close-ups of chopping, cutting, knives, pans, taps, blenders, juicers & some marathon to the pantry but we never once got to see any single contestant getting a considerate time frame to share what they were doing, in detail. I think in the upcoming seasons, they should give a considerable screen-time to those contestants who make both the good & the bad dishes & those who end up doing an average job can be ignored in the respective episodes because that would give a clear cut idea about the saving & elimination of a certain contestant.
I always believe that the comparison between two different shows isn’t always a good idea but where MasterChef Pakistan followed the format of MasterChef USA, I feel for the next seasons they should follow the footsteps of MasterChef Australia. They should make sure that the judges’ act a bit friendlier, where they don’t snub a contestant if he/she asks a question regarding the challenge twice, where they aren’t rigid & they push the contestants out of their comfort zones. One thing that I feel should be specifically taken care of is the uniqueness in every single challenge. This time around MasterChef Pakistan earned itself a substitute name of MasterPasta Pakistan & that is because the challenges weren’t designed that way & weren’t diverse enough. It was seen that the contestants re-made those dishes they knew they were good at & saved themselves from getting eliminated & not only that, the judges seemed perfectly happy with the repetition of dishes, so I think in the future, the team that designs the challenges should make a rule & feed it to the contestants that they cannot repeat any single component as they progress in the show, so that they get a window of experimenting.
Another thing that can’t be ignored is the way the judges at time never gave a clear picture about a dish that saved the contestant from getting eliminated. It seemed that there was a massive difference in the statements that the judges gave at the tasting table & while making the final announcement. I think it is very important that the judges stay true to their seats & be a bit more elaborate at first & then honest while making a decision about the elimination.
& lastly, I think the producers shouldn’t encourage the contestants to speak against their co-contestants because by the end of the day it’s a cooking competition that everyone tunes into to watch something different, so they should make sure they edit out all the negative comments that the contestants might make against each other & make the show look like a healthy competition. If people would’ve ever desired watching some petty politics, they could easily watch Pakistani dramas, but the Reality TV shouldn’t showcase any unrealistic or dramatic politics as it killed the enjoyment of the show.
One thing that’s appreciable is the MasterChef Pakistan’s official Facebook page, which made sure they engaged the viewers & fans by conducting different contests as it involved the people in healthy competition & made the interest in the show intact plus the timely posts on their page kept everyone updated too. Another amazing thing that they did was to create official pages of the top 16 contestants where they kept their fans aware of their journey & experience by sharing behind the scene pictures & selfies.
Even though there were a bit of the flaws in the first season, but given the benefit of doubt to the team, they’ve done an amazing job, it was conducted very professionally where they themselves raised the bar high for the upcoming seasons. I wish we get to see a better & improved next season of MasterChef Pakistan very very soon & they make us proud once again. I want to thank the team of MasterChef Pakistan & the all the contestants especially who gave us a brilliant first season of the show.
Please share your opinion & suggestion regarding MasterChef Pakistan & tell us how much you enjoyed watching the show & what changes would you like to see in the second season.